I’ve tried and tested a lot of iPad accessories over the years but the Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio is the first one I can honestly say I’ll be sorry to see the back of –– I’m writing this review on it RIGHT NOW and that never happens.
As someone who uses his MacBook Pro to type all his articles, switching to an iPad for work just doesn’t cut it. And yet here I am typing away on my iPad, as if it were some kind of post-tablet machine designed with actual work (and not web browsing) in mind.
Is the Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio the BEST in the business? Let’s find out.
Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio: Features & Design
As you could probably tell from its name, the Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio isn’t just an external iPad keyboard. It’s a keyboard combined with a case that also doubles as a stand.
Let’s first look at its protective casing. The FabricSkin Keyboard Folio takes the form of a book-like case. You snap the iPad into the inner cover and the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio wraps around it like the cover of a book. The lining of the front and rear cover is made of a woven fabric that is as beautiful as it is durable. The woven nature of the fabric allows you to get a nice grip on it and it’s thick enough to give the reassurance that your iPad is solidly protected. And when you have the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio case closed it stays sealed thanks to built-in magnets, meaning the cover doesn’t flip open easily.
The case is designed in such a way that the iPad’s Lightning port is still accessible whether opened or closed and on the front of the case there’s a hole for the iPad’s rear camera. There’s also a slot cut into the edge of the casing so you can access the volume buttons and the mute/rotation lock switch. But while the volume buttons are easy to access, the mute/rotation lock switch requires just a bit of digging your finger in to the notch to get a grip on unfortunately.
When you open the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio you have the option of using it in two ways. You can completely fold the cover back over itself and use your iPad flat as you normally would, or you can prop the iPad up on the bottom (keyboard) part of the case, in which case the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio becomes a stand/keyboard combo (kind of like the Microsoft Surface 2 and 3).
The FabricSkin Keyboard Folio has a built-in Micro-USB port for charging and the Micro-USB cable is included. Logitech says the Folio will go for three months on a single charge, with an average use time of two hours a day. The Folio’s keyboard connects to your iPad via Bluetooth.
I tried the Urban Grey (Black and Yellow) version of the Folio, but it also comes in Carbon Black and Mars Red Orange.
With the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio wrapped around your iPad you’ll add an extra 425 grams to the weight of the Air, but it’s not something I minded. It felt like I had an exceptionally light laptop with me. Finally, the dimensions of the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio case are 255 mm (H) x 185 mm (W) x 18.5 mm (D).
Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio: Keyboard
But the real star of the show is the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio’s keyboard. Its keys are made of a membrane, rubberized material that have just enough spring behind them. But because of the material it does take some getting used to. After all, these are not the hard plastic keys found on your normal laptop.
The thing I really love about the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio’s keyboard design is that there is no ridge built into the top of your keyboard to slot the iPad in to. Instead Logitech has taken advantage of the built-in magnet on the side of the iPad to hold the iPad in place on the keyboard. It works exceptionally well and the connection is so strong I can pick the unit up by just the iPad and the keyboard will not fall away.
Another nice feature about the iPad/keyboard connectivity is that as soon as it clamps down onto the magnet the keyboard is automatically picked up by the iPad’s Bluetooth chip. There’s zero connection lag time.
Logitech says the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio offers “full-sized” keys, which is technically accurate. However, the company is able to cram full-sized keys on the Folio because it relegates the TAB key to second-person status by combining it with the Q key. Same thing goes with the left-handed SHIFT key, which is combined with the “A” key.
In order to use the TAB key you’ll need to press the “fn” button at the same time as “Q” and in order to use the left-hand SHIFT key you’ll need to press the “fn” button at the same time as “A”, which is a pain when you want to quickly tab between fields in an email form or a spreadsheet or capitalise letters.
One great thing about the engineering of the keyboard is that because of the rubberized membrane design of its keys, there is no open space or gaps on the keyboard itself. This is why the company touts its ability to withstand water spills. And indeed, I’ve spilled a bit of coffee on the keyboard and I just wiped it clean–no problem.
Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio: Typing
Typing with the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio brought the biggest surprise: it made my iPad Air into a whole new--very productive--device. With the physical keyboard my iPad suddenly was nearly as useful as my MacBook Pro for productivity tasks. Using the keyboard to type away articles like this is something I couldn’t stand doing on the iPad’s touch screen keyboard--but with the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio it’s a pleasure. Matter of fact, now I feel like I can go away for the weekend and not have to drag my MacBook with me. My iPad Air with the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio is enough.
But it’s not just the ability of the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio to give my iPad touch typing that makes it so good. Apple deserves a lot of the credit because it’s optimized iOS for use with external keyboards. Logitech has included a dedicated home button on the keyboard so I can quickly press that to return to my iPad’s home screen. Apple has also made it dead simple for apps to take advantage of external keyboards. When one is connected, the iOS keyboard knows not to appear on the screen–and trust me, you’ll love the extra screen real estate that provides.
Another nice feature–again, thanks to Apple–is the iOS shortcut keys for copy, paste, undo and more. Being able to Command-V to paste on the iPad instead of having to paste with multiple taps is a godsend.
Logitech FabricSkin Keyboard Folio: Verdict
Using an external keyboard with my iPad Air has changed the way I view the device. It turns the iPad into a true productivity device. Logitech has done a good job building the hardware to support the offerings iOS has built in for external keyboards.
From a case perspective, the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio is a true winner. My iPad has never felt safer. As for the main feature of the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio–its keyboard–Logitech has done a good job there too.
But what kills it for me is the way the TAB and SHIFT key are combined with the Q and A keys. It’s not a deal breaker, but it makes adjusting to the keyboard layout a bit cumbersome until new muscle memory takes over.
At £129 the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio isn’t cheap. The price also makes careful consideration before purchasing essential. Not every iPad user will benefit from a third-party external keyboard like the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio. But users who do a lot of typing or are sick of carrying their laptop around with them will love this case/keyboard combo. And TAB and SHIFT key annoyances aside, the FabricSkin Keyboard Folio is an accessory well worth buying.